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Posted on
Jul 2019

Quant Versus Verbal

It’s time for quant versus verbal, one of the most common questions we get. Where should I start?


It won’t surprise our lovely viewers that it all depends on the person, but let’s talk in some generalizations. One thing you might be surprised by, maybe not so surprised to learn, is that a distinct majority of the people we work with come to us for quantitative help versus verbal help.

At least that’s what they state upfront. Many of them end up only getting quant anyhow but a lot of people state that they only need quant and then they end up needing verbal help as well. Once your quant outstrips your verbal you want to bring them up to parity because that’s highly rewarded by the scoring algorithm.

We talk, we read, we write, we live, we’re immersed in a world of language, a verbal world. Where even math professors only math a few hours a day. Okay yeah there is a verb – to math! This is not a GMAT word but it’s an Apex word because we math frequently. Yes!


So the issue there is fluency. If you’re already fluent in English, all the lessons you need to learn are much more easily attainable. Whereas with quantitative concepts even ones you think you know, often there’s more context. So you need a longer time period and more contact density with them in order to absorb all the stuff you need to then be flexible with them the same way you’re likely already flexible with the English language.


A big part of that is that the verbal section is the verbal section but the math section is math in English. They’re not just equations. They’re not just giving you specific mathematics problems per se. They are giving you math problems wrapped up in words.

That goes both ways, there are quantitative problems particularly on the critical reasoning and a lot of times these aren’t: here are some numbers; figure it out. Rather, the cost-of-living index is growing more quickly than inflation, more than pensions or something like that. Where you have some sort of abstract inequality buried in a property – they require mathematical reasoning.

That’s how it goes, so anyway there’s a lot of overlap on the GMAT but especially on the quantitative side, a lot of the difficulty is puzzling out what you need to answer, not doing the equation but you’re saying: what that hell is this asking me for?

Non-Native English Speakers

This is something else that we feel like a lot of the other test prep factories don’t really do a good enough job in my opinion. Emphasizing what many of you may be thinking right now which is verbal help and mathematical help with verbal for non-native English speakers. There are plenty of students who come to us who are actually very good mathematicians as it were and it’s the English that they need a little bit of help with. Not as it pertains to the verbal section but actually it’s the English on the quant section that’s difficult.

Absolutely, there’s vocabulary, there’s context, but what’s really important here is that native speakers and non-native speakers pick up language differently. Even the way you learned English if you’re a non-native speaker affects how we approach working with you on the verbal. So if you’re a non-English speaker don’t be too concerned that that’s a disadvantage.

Something I’d like to point out to my students quite often is that the GMAT is actually created specifically for native English speakers and a lot of the test itself is meant to trick native English speakers. So coming at it actually from a non-native speaking background can actually help you kind of skip over all of the little traps that are set up for native speakers. So don’t despair, it’s not that you’re at a distinct disadvantage, you just have some different kind of work to do to prepare.

Yeah, different advantages, having access to secondary grammars whether it’s your native language or whether you took say, Spanish in high school.

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Posted on
Jun 2019

Number Theory Problem Form – Wedding Guest

Today we’re going to be looking at what at first seems to be an allocation problem. But on further reflection, actually turns out to be a much simpler number theory problem.

If we take a look at the problem stem these numbers 143 and 77. They stick out to us and they stick out not just because they don’t seem to have any relative association but also because they’re sort of odd-looking numbers, they don’t look like most the numbers were used to seeing. Say 48 or 24 or 36 something easily divisible clearly breakable into factors. Here were given these two disparate numbers and we’re being asked to formulate not what the tables are made up of but how many tables there are.

Solving the Problem

So we look at these two numbers and we examine first the 77 because it’s a simpler lower number. 77 breaks into factors of 7 and 11. This clues us in as to what to look for out of the 143. 143 must have a factor of 7 or 11. And in fact 143 is evenly divisible by 11 and it gives us 13.

Which means that the maximum number of tables is 11. Each one has 13 people from the bride’s side and 7 people from the groom’s side. 13 plus 7 there’s 20 people at each table. Times the 11 tables is 220.

And we can back check our math, 143 plus 77 is 220. We don’t need to go that far but that might help deliver some comfort to this method. So in reality this is a very creative clever way the GMAT is asking us for a greatest common factor.

Graphical Solution Path

Another way to think about this is that we need an equal number of groups from the bride and groom side. The number of people on the bride’s side doesn’t have to equal the number of people on the groom’s side. We just need them broke in into the same number of equal groups. Graphically, the illustration shows us how a certain number of different sized groups combined into this common table. So 13 and 7 and we have 11 groups of each.

Problem Forming

This is a great problem to problem form. It will give you some additional mental math or common result experience by forcing you to figure out numbers that you can present that at first don’t look like they match but in fact do have a common factor. You’ll notice that if they had given you 16 people and 36 people finding that common factor might be easier.

So as you problem form this try and do it in a way that sort of obscures the common factor. Either try it maybe where they have multiple common factors and you tweak things like what is the greatest number what is the fewest number of tables. Or even do a perspective shift and take a look at say how many guests are represented at each table. Or on the bride’s side or on the groom’s side. Of course there are conceptual shifts to this and you can make this story about anything. Once you control the story or rather the structure of the story this problem becomes very very straightforward.

Hope this helped, I look forward to seeing you guys soon.

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Posted on
Feb 2019

Six Things That GMAT Preppers Get Wrong

I’m Mike Diamond Head Instructor for Apex GMAT, here to talk about the top six things GMAT preppers get wrong.

1. Thinking that a correct answer means you’re done with the problem.

When you arrive at a correct answer, that should mark the beginning of your preparation, not the end of it. There are almost always better solution paths that are more time efficient. They work better with the way your brain engages the problem. Or they will add understanding either to the content or more importantly to the underlying structure of the examination.

So, when you arrive at a correct answer look for alternative solution paths, and for shortcuts. Give yourself the latitude to explore. Moreover, try to identify what permitted you get to get the problem correct in the first place. A lot of times people focus much more on the problems they get wrong; on what they’re doing wrong than on what they’re doing right. And what you’re doing right can often inform those problems where you are struggling. So remember, once you arrive at the correct answer, that’s your starting point.

2. Overusing practice tests.

Practice exams are a crucial part of GMAT preparation, but they’re often misused and overused. Most people use a practice exam to see how they’re doing. But being focused on your score is absolutely the wrong way to approach the GMAT.

Rather, you want to be focused on your process and if your process is tight, if your process is correct. Then the score is going to take care of itself. Practice tests are best used for a number of reasons, none of which have to do with your score.

They can be used to calibrate your timing decisions. They can be used to identify weak points in your conceptual understanding. Finally, they can be used to identify where you DSM, default solving mechanism, back into old time consuming and unconstructive solution pathways. So, the next time you have an urge to do a test remember that this is going to rob you of two to three hours of valuable prep time. When you’re doing a practice test, you’re not learning, you’re doing.

3. Caring about your score.

I know it’s counter-intuitive, you want that 700-plus score. It’s all you think about; it haunts your dreams. And yet caring about your score is the quickest way to a test anxiety problem and it’s actually entirely unconstructive. Rather, you need to focus entirely on your process and let the score handle itself.

Imagine you’re running a race and you’re running as fast as you can. Whether you’re a super fit marathon runner or a couch potato, you can only run as fast as you can. And the time on that race is going to reflect that. So don’t sweat the score, sweat your fitness! Understand what things you can do to improve your GMAT fitness and the score will take care of itself.

4. Studying under a time constraint.

Time trials are really important as you mature in your GMAT progress. But at the start, you want to focus on the mastery of skills in an un-timed environment. Only once you’ve achieved mastery try to do them ever more quickly.

By focusing on the time before you have the underlying process conquered you end up rushing yourself in a way that exacerbates your mistakes rather than allows you to correct them. So as you’re prepping, focus on total mastery and understanding first and then begin putting them under time pressure.

5. Low-yield self-prep.

Most people spend entirely too much time preparing from the GMAT. They do so because they’re not getting enough out of their prep time.

Does this sound familiar? Okay, I’m going to do a group of 10 questions, maybe on a timer for 20 minutes. Afterwards I’m going to look in the back of the book. When I get the problem right I’m going to say, “yeah, I never have to deal with this problem again.” When I get it wrong in going to go a little bit further and normally I’m going to find something that I knew but I sort of forgot. I’ll say, “You know what I won’t forget that, I’m going to get that right next time.”

But it doesn’t happen that way does it? That’s a very low yielding strategy. Instead, you need to become responsible and accountable for your learning and Apex shows you the way to do so by not just being reactive to problems but proactively creating problems of your own.

6. Doing the math.

We have a saying around here and you may have heard it on some of our materials or online videos. If you’re doing math, then you’re doing something wrong. Most of the GMAT quantitative section requires little to no processing and if you’re scribbling tons of stuff on paper it means you’re missing the bigger picture. So remember, if you’re doing math there’s always a better way!

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